Bold Red Sox are back: All (most) is forgiven

Ben Cherington finally made his mark as the boss of Red Sox baseball.

Last month Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said the team could make a “bold” move at the trade deadline. But he also needed to know when to be bold.

When Lucchino said bold, no one ever imagined something as drastic as what has occurred the past two days. While the drastic move didn’t take place at the trade deadline, it certainly was as bold as you could ever get.

The Red Sox traded away their three largest and longest contracts (approximately $260 million total) in Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez as well as Nick Punto and cash considerations to the Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan DeJesus, Jr., right-hander Allen Webster, and two players to be named later.

Loney will report directly to the Red Sox while DeJesus and Webster will be assigned to the minor leagues. The two players to be named later are reportedly outfielder Jerry Sands and pitcher Rubby De La Rosa. According to general manager Ben Cherington, the two players will be officially announced following the season.

“It hasn’t worked. It’s on all of us,” said Cherington to reporters Saturday as to why the trade was made. “I think we recognize that we are not who we want to be right now. And it’s been a large enough sample performance going back to last year that we felt like in order to be the team that we want to be on the field, we needed to make more than cosmetic changes, so as we look forward to this offseason, we felt like the opportunity to build that we need, that the fans deserve that we want, required more of a bold move to give us an opportunity to really reshape the roster, reshape the team.”

The most significant part of the deal is the Red Sox are only sending a reported $10 million to the Dodgers, which means the Dodgers are taking on $260 million worth of contracts, and only getting $10 million from Boston. This allows approximately $250 million to come of the Red Sox’ payroll over the next several years.

It also signifies the Red Sox have admitted they made a few mistakes from 2009 to 2010 in terms of their free agent signings and overall team approach, where they got away from what they did in the early 2000s, which led to two World Series titles.

It should be noted that this is not the only step needed to turn things around for a team that is 67-86 since last Aug. 31. It is only step one, but a big first step at that. Before this deal was made the upcoming offseason was viewed one in which free agent signings and contract extensions would be limited due to the significant amount of money being devoted to Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez. Now, with their contracts off their hands the organization can be much more flexible with what they can do to improve the ball club for 2013 and beyond.

When speaking to the media about the trade on Saturday, Cherington used the word “discipline” extensively when describing the team’s approach to getting back to where they want to be.

“As we always do this time of year, we’ve started to look at opportunities in the offseason. I think the key is we are absolutely committed to building the best team we can in 2013 and beyond, and we’re going to do that in the most disciplined way possible,” said Cherington. “When we’ve been at our best, we’ve made good decisions, disciplined decisions. Found value, whether it’s in the free agent market or trade market. And that’s our job to do that. We have a core of players here, still, very talented core of players here still, that will be a part of our next great team, and we’ll do whatever we can to put together the best team for 2013.”

Some have questioned whether or not the next season or two would be a rebuilding year with the dealing of three of the teams’ biggest superstars. This assumption is false – just look at the core players the Red Sox have to build around.

The team has Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz as quality No.1 and No. 2 starting pitchers. They also have a former MVP in Dustin Pedroia and rookie Will Middlebrooks to manufacture their infield around. In the outfield the team has Jacoby Ellsbury at least for one more season, and following the trade there is a much better chance the Red Sox resign/extend Ellsbury’s contract with the freed up money. The same can be said for designated hitter David Ortiz. While the team wouldn’t be smart to offer a multi-year deal to the slugger, he most likely will not get such deal anywhere. The Red Sox will be pressured to bring back Ortiz and his explosive bat back after losing another slugger in Gonzalez.
 
With that being said the team is missing some key pieces to being a legitimate contender. They need a left fielder and a first baseman to start, although Loney, a free agent to be, will be given the chance to prove himself the remainder of this season. Another starting pitcher and key piece to the bullpen will most likely be added as well.

With the financially flexibility the organization has, obtaining these missing pieces will not be as difficult as it appears. Surely management will be tempted by free agents who are demanding long-term, large sum contracts, but if Cherington sticks to being “discipline” the team will most likely stay clear. There is no doubt with a successful offseason, building with the core players still on the team, the 2013 Red Sox will be right in the mix to contend for a World Series title.

The Red Sox are in Cherington’s hands. He deserves all the credit in the world for making this deal happen, but he is now responsible for finding the pieces and spending the money to get one of the most historic franchises in all of sports back on track. If he succeeds he will be viewed as one of the best general managers in all of major league baseball.

If not, everyone got a first-hand look at what losing looks like. And it’s not pretty.


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